Spicing up the season

Conceived 5 years ago to draw attention to the city’s softer side, the Jerusalem Season of Culture expects to enjoy similar success this summer.

Chefs Assaf Granit and Kamal Hashelmon. (photo credit: DAN PERETZ)
Chefs Assaf Granit and Kamal Hashelmon.
(photo credit: DAN PERETZ)
The staff of the Jerusalem Season of Culture must have had a sense of deja vu with the renewal of hostilities in the region. When it was launched five years ago, the JSC was an innovative initiative of philanthropist Lynn Schusterman, who wanted to present a different image of Jerusalem than a city that received massive media coverage for its suicide bombers and tension in the streets. The idea was to put on such impressive artistic and cultural events that they would make their way to the news outlets and TV screens in the Western world, providing the simple but powerful message that there was more to Jerusalem than blown-up buses and restaurants.
The result was a marvelous mixture of genres, ranging from extravaganzas such as a performance by internationally acclaimed soprano Renee Fleming at the Sultan’s Pool to events such as last year’s concert series Ascension to the City Through the Mountains.
The JSC also had a real hit with “Contact Point” in the Israel Museum’s sculpture garden, which annually attracts young and old alike.
This year, the JSC is focusing on smaller, more intimate events – something that suits this city very well, given the warm response that type of event received last year. Events in the homes of the performers for small audiences established a unique and highly interesting interaction between the two parties, so we will be having more of them this season.
The love of Jerusalem is what lies at the heart of the whole program, says JSC artistic director Itai Mautner. Born and raised in Jerusalem until he moved to Tel Aviv many years ago, Mautner is genuinely happy to celebrate his comeback to the city through a homage to its cultural life. Like poets and troubadours of ancient times, he expresses his deep affection for the city by calling it “my love” and admires its ability to forgive his departure and welcome his return.
The program itself includes a wide range of events, which run until September 12. There has already been one cancellation for security reasons – the popular “Contact Point.” Among the many smaller events, the JSC will feature a Sacred Music Festival at the Tower of David Museum and courtyard (September 9 to 12); an encounter with Masters of World Music in Zedekiah’s Cave. Among the guests from abroad will be Balka Sissuko from Mali; West African harpist Aziza Brahim from West Sahara, singing blues depicting the lives of refugees from Africa; and Zaba, a group of dancers and performers of Sufi ceremonies from the isle of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean. As well, acclaimed locals Amir Shasar will perform on the ney (Iranian flute), and musician Piris Eliyahu will present a concert titled Ad Adei Ad/To Eternity.
The Front Line – a local radio station at Hansen House – will host some well-known local performers, ending with a rave that will go on long into the night (August 10 to 14).
Festival at Home is a series of experimental events that combines theater, music, the spoken word and a peek behind the curtains of hotel rooms and private places (July 21 to 24).
Under the Mountain is also back this year, described as “a contemporary platform for living art.” Not everyone is sure what that means, but basically it will range from inaugurating a protest site in front of the Prime Minister’s Residence and an exhibition of police cars and vehicles used to disperse demonstrations to a mock trial by the Supreme Court, and a ceremony on Mount Herzl.
In addition, there will be a lesson in reading verses from the Koran, given by a sheikh on the Temple Mount (July 24 to 27).
Perhaps one of the cherries on the cake will be the encounter between an Arab and a Jewish chef.
Some 3,876 meters is the distance that separate the two chefs, Assaf Granit (Mahaneyuda) from Kamal Hashelmon, formerly the chef of the Turkiz restaurant, who today owns a catering business.
The two, about the same age and great lovers of Jerusalem, will meet on scenic Mount Scopus, where they will prepare and serve their special dishes.
Details about the events are available on the festival website: Jerusalemseason.com. Tel: (02) 653-5854